Botswana has one of the lowest rates of citizenship granted, proportionately, in comparison to any other African country. At the ongoing Public Accounts Committee (PAC) sessions, it was brought to the fore that Botswana has a citizenship quota set at 200.
Member of Parliament Guma Moyo expressed concern at the current citizenship quota and quizzed the Labour and Home Affairs Permanent Secretary, Pearl Matome as to why Botswana has a low quota despite the ministry receiving numerous applications.
“It would appear that we are reluctant to bring in foreigners,” said PAC member Guma Moyo, further questioning the PS on the basis of the quota that government has established regarding the approval of citizenship.
According to Moyo, the quota set at 200 is very low and hasn’t been reviewed for a couple of years now despite the number of citizenship applications increasing. He stated that to his understanding the Minister receives about 1000 applications from the Committee from which a limit of 200 is approved. This quota means that every year the Minister gives approval to a maximum of 200 people to obtain citizenship. Moyo who was clearly displeased questioned whether the limit warrants the expenses incurred by the Committee for the process of selecting qualifying applications.
Moyo sought to understand the reasoning behind the limit established by government from which he also questioned what message it communicates about Botswana. In her response, Matome admitted that she is not informed on the basis of the quota set at 200 and therefore could not furnish the Committee with a clear explanation. “I don’t know what informed the 200,” she answered. She however mentioned that the Act is currently under review, adding that the Committee sits for approximately a week in the North and South regions respectively to make selections. The meetings, she said, take place twice a year.
In addition to the limited quota of 200 or less, the applicants are not allowed to interrogate the decision taken by the Minister. Section 22 of the Citizen Act stipulates that “the Minister shall not be required to assign any reason for any taken under any of the provisions of this Act and no such decision shall be subject to appeal or review in any court.” The Act specifies as one of the qualifications for citizenship, that the applicant should have sufficient knowledge of the Setswana language or any language spoken by any tribal community in Botswana. It further states however that the Minister, where special circumstances exist, can award citizenship to an applicant who fails to satisfy the language.
Member of Parliament Biggie Butale asked Matome if government could consider inward immigration as a specific and deliberate exercise to aid the growth of the local economy. Butale explained that such a policy will assist the country with the necessary skills which are currently in shortage. However, Matome expressed reluctance towards the matter explaining that it would require strict controls from the government to ensure that it works only for the intended purpose. She assured the Committee that she would take the matter as an assignment for further deliberation.